Space Jam 2 review: More like Face Palm, Poo
Some fans have been waiting 25 years for this. And we've got some bad news for them...
At the start of this movie, there was a running joke that I found to be particularly funny.
Whenever LeBron James appeared on the screen, the camera was constantly cutting off the top of his head, in a clever, meta joke about the difficulties of framing the over-two-meters-tall LeBron with average humans of an average height.
It was only when a subtitle appeared at the bottom of the screen, and it too was cut off on the screen, did I realise that it wasn't a visual gag at all, but that the ratio on the screen had been messed up by the projectionist in the cinema.
And that is the story of the only decent joke in all of Space Jam: A New Legacy.
It has been a quarter of a century since the first, whisper it, not good at all Space Jam (don't let your rose-tinted nostalgia make you think any differently) was released, to a resounding "Meh" from critics, and even commercially, it didn't do that well, making $250 million from an $80 million budget.
So what is it about Space Jam that allowed it to endure for this long?
Well, while the movie didn't make serious bank at cinemas, it did lead to over SIX BILLION DOLLARS in profit for Warner Bros. in merchandise, and it very quickly becomes apparent that they're looking for a similar cash cow this time around.
The plot, for as much as it matters, involves LeBron (trying his best) and his son Dom (Cedric Joe, also doing what he can) pulled into the "Serververse" by Al-G Rhythm (Don Cheadle, single-handedly saving the movie from being completely unwatchable), a sentient AI who wants to be respected by humanity. He reckons he can do this by putting a digital basketball game together and beating LeBron in front of his millions of fans.
So LeBron takes off through the Warner Bros. back catalogue to put his team together, initially mentioning the likes of Superman, King Kong, Trinity from The Matrix, etc. Instead, he crosses paths with Bugs Bunny, who convinces him to round up the rest of the Looney Tunes, all leading up to another whacky, climactic basketball game finale.
Along the way, we get a prolonged animated sequence, with LeBron himself drawn in Looney Tunes style, and this bit zips by painlessly enough. We also get some entertaining if bewildering sojourns here - the Road Runner cut into the action of Mad Max: Fury Road, and a long scene set in the world of... (checks notes)... Casablanca - that truly prove this movie has no idea who the audience is.
If it is for kids, they won't get the references to The Matrix and Clockwork Orange, and if it is for nostalgia-ridden adults, there isn't really any jokes here for them, either. References, sure, but just having a character repeat the lines from another movie isn't a joke!
By the time the too-long climax arrives, the visuals have gone full Ready Player One, eye-popping in a strenuous way, and populated with literally hundreds of nods towards other Warner Bros. properties. The courtside audience is filled with The Night King from Game Of Thrones, standing next to Batman, standing next to Jane Hudson from Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?, which is quite a baller move; constantly reminding viewers of other, better things you've made.
Turns out, in the end, that projectionist might have been doing me a favour, by physically blocking some of the movie from my line of sight.
Space Jam: A New Legacy arrives in Irish cinemas on Friday, 16 July.
Clips via WB UK & Ireland